Here is a December 2013 satellite image of the renovation (currently under way):
My comments are in this NK News article…
Here is a December 2013 satellite image of the renovation (currently under way):
My comments are in this NK News article…
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
North Korea is encouraging “localization” of raw materials in light and construction industries from this year to improve the lives of the North Korean people.
On January 7, Rodong Sinmun introduced that various Cabinet organizations were espousing the New Year’s address of Kim Jong Un. It reported, “The Ministry of Light Industry’s executives and employees are engaging in discussions to explore ways to increase localization of raw materials in light industry factories.”
Pyongyang City rally was held earlier this month at the Kim Il Sung Square pledging to accomplish national tasks put forward by Kim Jong Un. Tong Jong Ho, Minister of Construction and Building-Materials Industry delivered a speech that vowed to “make an unprecedented leap in localization of building materials (cement, glass, metals, and other construction materials),” by repairing building materials factories in all provinces.
The Choson Sinbo, pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan reported on January 2 that at the New Year Meeting at the Pyongyang Socks Factory, the plant manager, Lee Sung Hui made a speech and promised to “raise the level of socks production and localization of raw materials to a higher level in Vinalon and PP fibers (synthetic) this year.”
North Korea is promoting light and construction industries as the key sectors to improve the living standards of the people and asserting localization of raw materials should take precedence to make advancement in these fields.
In his New Year message, Kim Jong Un emphasized that the lighting industry had a “significant role in improving people’s lives,” and the construction sector was “at the frontline to providing a place of happiness for the people.”
In particular, he encouraged modernization of factories in light industry and directed normalization of production and placed great importance on localization of raw materials.
Many experts analyze the rising emphasis on the localization of raw materials this year reflect the intentions of the North Korean authorities to achieve realistic and achievable policy goals first. However, localization of facilities entail construction of domestic production base but this is met with limitations such as international sanctions and lack of foreign currency which is not an easy issue that can be resolved in a short period.
From 2012, North Korea’s launch of a long-range rocket and third nuclear test was accompanied with rising weight on the importance of localization of equipment and technology. On December 3, 2013, Rodong Sinmun carried an article entitled, “Localization and National Pride,” that reported on the onsite inspection visits by Kim Jong Un to various economic sectors where he underscored the importance of “equipment, materials, and elements of localization” and “our strengths and technology” on many occasions.
North Korea acclaimed the launch of long-range rocket in December 2012 was a “successful launch of a satellite based on 100 percent domestic science and technology.” Then in February last year immediately following the nuclear test, it boasted, “Thrilling clap of independent nuclear thunder broke out based on 100 percent of our own wisdom and technology.”
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
In an effort to restore the mood of economic development following the ‘terror politics’ created from the execution of Jang Song Thaek, North Korean state media is beginning to emphasize “construction of a powerful economy” and “improvement of people’s lives” once again.
Rodong Shinmun reported on December 19, 2013 that all fields reached their production plans for the year, describing (on page 3) exemplary cases of various party organizations that upheld the legacies of Kim Jong Il and “displayed best practices that actively contributed to improving people’s lives.”
In one article (“Advancement in Science and Technology Is the Lifeline of Constructing a Powerful Economy and Improving People’s Lives”) the importance of science and technology was emphasized. It claimed, “breakthrough in science and technology is the best way to achieve a miracle and innovation in production while protecting the dignity of the nation in the era of knowledge economy.”
Korean Central Television, Korean Central Broadcasting, and Pyongyang Broadcasting encouraged its people to realize “new miracle, new record” in the production fields emphasizing the goals of the Kim Jong Un regime, “construction of economic powerhouse,” and “construction of civilized socialist nation.”
In addition, the military was presented with modern fishing boats. Kim Jong Un’s gift to the military may be interpreted as a display of interest in improving the welfare of soldiers. Kim Jong Un was reported to have made an on-site inspection at the “8.25 Fishery” military unit and expressed interest in the welfare of the soldiers.
Kim Jong Un is also continuing to commend “best citizens” as he delivered letters of appreciation to recognize those that displayed exceptional performance at the construction sites of Sepho Tableland and the residential complex for Kim Il Sung University (KISU) faculty members.
In the Kim Jong Un era, state media is continuing to emphasize the achievements in the construction sectors, calling these times a “new heyday of juche construction.” It listed last year’s construction achievements: completion of Changjon Street, People’s Theatre, Pyongyang Children’s Department Store, Rungra People’s Pleasure Park, People’s Outdoor Skating Rink, Pyongyang Folk Park, and Ryugyong Health Complex.
In addition, it boasted that Munsu Water Park was “miraculously” completed in only nine months. Other achievements were listed: War Memorial, Mirim Riding Club, Ryugyong Dental Hospital, Okryu Children’s Hospital, Unha Scientists Street, and KISU faculty apartment complex.
North Korea is propagating these achievements, heralding the Kim Jong Un era as the “glory days of construction” to promote his accomplishments and consolidate his power base.
During his own period of succession, Kim Jong Il sought the support of the masses by emphasizing construction of Changgwang and Munsu Streets and landmarks such as Juche Tower, Kaeson Mun (Gate of Triumphant Return), and Pyongyang Maternity Hospital.
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
The first chairman of the National Defence Commission of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, took office two years ago. Since then, construction of sports and entertainment facilities are reported to have increased considerably. According to the South Korean Ministry of Unification, North Korea’s Pyongyang Folk Park (September 2012), Taesongsan General Hospital (March 2013), and Haedanghwa Service Complex (April 2013) were recently completed. Since the launch of the Kim Jong Un regime, the Masik Pass Ski Resort and other similar sports facilities have been undertaken and are nearing completion.
In addition, the People’s Theatre (April 2012), Rungna People’s Pleasure Ground (opened in July 2012), Sunrise Restaurant (September 2012), and Unification Street Center (September 2012) have been recently renovated. In addition, the Mirim Riding Club, Pyongyang Gymnasium, Munsu Wading Pool, Aprok (Yalu) River Amusement park, Karma Hotel, and New Day Hotel and other hotels around Pyongyang are currently under renovation and repair. Entertainment and sports facilities around other major cities are being constructed as well. Furthermore, after the successful launch of Kwangmyongsong 3-2 last December, North Korea has begun to construct major residential complexes for scientists, granting them preferential housing in Unha scientist residence, Kim Il Sung University educator residence, and Pyongsong residence. Other large-scale housing projects are also reported to be under development.
In the wake of major celebrations in North Korea — such as the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung and 60-year anniversary of the “Victory in the Fatherland Liberation War” — a large memorial was erected and existing facilities were repaired. Specifically, the Korean People’s Army Exhibition of Arms and Equipment, Kumsusan Memorial Palace, War Victory Monument, and the Cemetery of the Fallen Fighters of the KPA were refurbished.
Unlike the large-scale construction of sports and entertainment facilities, new constructions of harbors, roads, power plants and other social overhead capital (SOC) is reported to be in decline.
Last August, North Korea’s trade with China has shown an 8 percent increase in exports and 6 percent decrease in imports, following a similar trend from last year. According to the South Korean Ministry of Unification, North Korea’s current trade volume with China is reported to be 4 billion USD (1.89 billion USD in exports and 2.2 billion USD in imports).
North Korea’s most popular export items are mineral resources such anthracite, coal, and iron ore. In the case of clothing products — which are mostly consigned processing — there has been an increase of 42 percent (200 million USD) against the previous year. Major categories of imports from China are crude oil, food, and fertilizers. Compared to the previous year, food imports have declined 57 percent (17.4 million tons), and fertilizer and crude oil imports are also showing gradual reduction at 27 percent (18.3 million tons) and 6 percent (34.6 million tons), respectively.
According to Yonhap:
North Korea is moving to grow its nanotech industry and produce high-tech products, Pyongyang’s state media reported Friday.
The Rodong Sinmun newspaper, an organ of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), said in an article that the country’s nanotech center that was recently built has made advances in medicine, energy, environmental conservation, light industry and farming.
Nanotechnology involves controlling matter on a molecular scale, leading to the creation of materials of high commercial value and with wide-ranging benefits.
The newspaper monitored in Seoul said the nanotech center, built under the guidance of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, has played a key part in developing the sector. It added that roughly 1,000 nano products and prototypes were on display at the 10th nano science exhibition that opened on Tuesday.
North Korean media started mentioning the nanotech center in April, although no detail was made public on when it was established.
It said the country’s technicians from universities and laboratories have been able to develop agricultural sterilizers, growth accelerators, air cleaners and shoes.
The daily also said the total number of products showcased at the exhibit represents a 10-fold increase from just four years ago, highlighting the progress made by the country in the next-generation technology.
The latest news article follows another report by the North’s Korean Central News Agency that claimed in May that many practical products to cope with athlete’s foot have reached consumers in the communist country.
In June, the Choson Sinbo, a Japan-based pro-Pyongyang newspaper, said an alcoholic beverage made using nano technology enjoyed popularity in Pyongyang.
Related to the media reports, Lim Eul-chul, a research professor at Kyungnam University and North Korea expert, said emphasis on high-tech industries has become more pronounced since Kim’s ascension to power in late 2011.
He speculated that the leader may be pushing for technological advances to bolster economic growth and stimulate positive social change.
Here is a report from KCNA (2013-8-5):
Nano-technology Exhibition Held in DPRK
Pyongyang, August 5 (KCNA) — The 10th national sci-tech presentation and show in the field of nano-technology took place here from July 30 to August 2.
Attending the presentation and show were more than 20 units, including the State Academy of Sciences. 130 odd scientific papers were presented and at least 1 000 pieces of products in 260 kinds, among them nano-science and technology books, exhibited in the form of object, model and chart.
The products included nano germicide, nano photosynthetic accelerant and nano microelement compound invented by the Agricultural Nano Technology Institute under the Academy of Agricultural Science, which have been applied to hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmlands in several years to prove effective.
Nano combined antibacterial agent, nano water-purifying agent and functional nano toothbrush, produced by the Okryu Foodstuff-processing Company under the General Bureau of Public Service, drew the attention of visitors. There were also such nano health drinks, made with natural surface active agent, as nano gold and silver spring waters and nano gold and silver liquors.
Nano gold liquor helps preserve health and treat different diseases.
Nano garments, presented by the Myonghung High-tech Materials Company, have functions of antibiosis, destruction of organic matter and prevention of ultraviolet rays.
The Taedonggang Technology Company displayed carbon nano pipe and chart showing its production process.
Pyongyang Medical College of Kim Il Sung University presented nano platinum injection, nano compound plastic denture material and Saengdangssuk injection.
Besides, scientific institutes and educational establishments presented atomic force microscope, X-ray diffraction analyzer, scanning tunneling microscope and other products used in the field of nano measurement.
Achievements and experiences, gained in the field of nano technology were exchanged at the presentation and show.
And from IFES:
North Korea established nano technology center
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
North Korea’s interest in nanotechnology, the state-of-the-art science in the 21st century, is rapidly increasing.
Rodong Sinmun,the official newspaper of the Workers’ Party released an article titled “The Bright Future of the Nanotechnology,” on August 1. The Tenth Annual Nanotechnology Science and Technology Conference and Exhibition opened on July 30 and the venue of this event, National Nanotechnology Center was described in detail in the article.
The newspaper elaborated, “The National Nanotechnology Center was built under the guidance of our leader Kim Jong Un and he guided us to widely announced our achievements and experiences in this field.”
National Nanotechnology Center appeared on North Korean media occasionally from this April this year. The center is likely to have been constructed under the guidance of Kim Jong Un for the development and commercialization of nanotechnology.
Rodong Sinmunreported that nanotechnology is making great progress in the environmental, medicine, energy, agricultural and light industries and introduced nano-products such as agricultural fungicides, nano biological growth promoters, and nano-indoor air purifiers. This event displayed over 1,000 nano technology products from 20 nanotechnology research centers including Kim Il Sung University, Kim Hyong Jik University of Education, Kim Chaek University of Technology and National Academy of Sciences.
Compared to 100 nanotechnology products displayed at the exhibition in 2009, the number has increased ten-fold in just four years. This clearly demonstrates North Korea’s growing fervor and investment in nanotechnology in recent years.
Similar articles about nanotechnology can be found in Choson Sinbo, a Japan-based pro-North Korean newspaper.
Choson Sinboreleased an article on June 22 that gold tassels made with nanotechnology are popular amongst shops and restaurants in Pyongyang. On May 22, the Korean Central News Agency also introduced “nano straw shoes” made with nanosilver and nano titanium that eliminate foot odor and treat athlete’s foot.
Similarly in May 3, Rodong Sinmun announced that nano-antiseptic and germ solutions were invented by scientists and technicians at the National Nanotechnology Center.
The promotion of nanotechnology is not new for North Korea. During Kim Jong Il’s era, the Second Five-Year Plan for development of science and technology (2003-2007) focused on the nano-technology as the main project, and Nano Science and Technology Conference were held annually from 2003. North Korea has been showing unrelenting investment in nanotechnology from the 2000s.
This year marks the second year of Kim Jong Un’s rule and nanotechnology is given continued attention. Kim Jong Un’s proclivity towards nanotechnology is relevant in its goal of achieving economic development through state-of-the-art science and technology. Recently it launched new slogans such as “The Industrial Revolution of the New Century,” and “building an powerhouse of knowledge economy.” Despite the international sanctions it is faced with, North Korea’s plausible option to catch up to the ‘global trend’ will be through science and technology sector.
UPDATE 6 (2013-7-1): The Daily NK reports the effort to construct 100,000 homes in Pyongyang has come to a complete halt. According to the article:
A troubled prestige project to build 100,000 new homes in Pyongyang has been brought to a complete halt under the rule of Kim Jong Eun, and buildings in some areas have fallen into a state of disrepair.
A source from the North Korean capital revealed to Daily NK on July 1st, “The 100,000 homes project has been at a complete halt since Kim Jong Eun took power, and on the outskirts of the city some buildings are half-built and collapsing into a state of disrepair.”
“In this area, people were evacuated in October 2009 so that the construction could commence,” the source went on. “But in many areas those buildings that were begun at that time are still not above the first floor.”
Homes planned as part of the project, which, according to state propaganda, was to form part of celebrations for North Korea’s becoming a “strong and prosperous state” by the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth in April 2012, were expected to feature in propaganda vis-a-vis Kim Jong Eun’s greatness.
However, the project has been plagued by electricity and material shortages from the beginning, sources say, and ultimately could not be completed. In some areas, the construction that did go ahead was poorly done and buildings have subsequently collapsed, which has caused deaths.
The source commented, “From Kim Jong Eun’s perspective the project was promoted so that he could say he was improving the people’s lives. But there were no raw materials and no power, and this caused poor construction; so ultimately it has just been abandoned.”
The North Korean authorities are only genuinely concerned about projects that offer short-term opportunities for public propagation of results, such as water parks and exercise facilities in downtown Pyongyang, the source went on to claim.
Meanwhile, the direct suffering caused by the failed project is falling primarily on those who were moved out of their homes in order for construction to start back in 2009. “In a number of cases, the Party ordered families to move out and live with others temporarily, and here we are, four years on, with multiple families living under one roof,” the source said, adding that the indignity of this is being compounded by mobilization orders calling on people without homes of their own to take part in downtown beautification and cleaning schemes.
I have have posted quite a bit of material on construction in Pyongyang in recent years. Here are some of the more relevant articles:
Read the full story here:
100,000 Homes Project Stopped Dead
Lee Sang Yong
UPDATE 5 (2011-11-03): The Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) reports on the status of Pyongyang’s residential construction effort.
North Korea Pushing Forward with the Project of Constructing 100,000 Housing Units in Pyongyang
In order to celebrate Kim Il Sung’s centennial birthday next year on April 15, 2012, the plan to build 100,000 private homes in Pyongyang is quickly underway. North Korea has announced its intension to upgrade Pyongyang into a city with over 100,000 homes. Pyongyang’s district of Mansudae is to build over one thousand units of high-rise apartments (77 stories), theaters, parks and other recreational facilities.
The KCNA reported on October 11, “For the next Day of the Sun, Pyongyang will be completely transformed.” The news added, “The construction of private homes has been in progress for five months and is at 70 percent completion. Mansudae District is rapidly changing with skyscrapers and high-rise apartments appearing throughout the city. Construction of theaters and service facilities are also in development.”
Facing Mansudae is [East] Pyongyang [area], another area in Pyongyang under enhancement and has secured over 17,400 square meters of land for multi-purpose service facilities and 9,660 square meters for a public outdoor ice rink. The KCNA elaborated, “The multi-purpose facilities encompass bathhouses, beauty salons, and other latest facilities of convenience. In the public outdoor ice rink, circular ice rink, bleachers and cultural recreational facilities will be built to provide necessary environment for people to enjoy various ice sports.”
Rungrado Recreation Ground is also reported to be rejuvenated with a variety of amusement rides and multipurpose water park. The water park will be equipped with wave pools, waterslides, and health pools.
In addition, Pyongyang is focusing on gardening and exterior beautification projects for private homes and public buildings, including installation of colorful tiles and paints as well as bright neon signs in the streets.
“The Development Project of 100,000 Housing Units in Pyongyang” went into effect since 2009 but talks of reducing the project to 20,000 homes surfaced when it was faced with funding difficulties. However, the original plan of building 100,000 homes has not faltered and appears to be in full swing.
Early this year on January 3, a public rally was held at the Kim Il Sung Square with over 100,000 people present. At that time, the homebuilding project of Pyongyang was announced in which “Pyongyang City will be equipped to enter the era of strong and prosperous nation in all sectors.”
In July 2008, the General Bureau of Capital Construction began a large-scale redevelopment project. Completed a year later on September 2009, 600 old homes mostly built in the 1960s were demolished and in their place an apartment complex with over 800 homes went up. This project received undivided attention from Kim Jong Il, Chang Sung-Thaek, administrative director of the Worker’s Party of Korea, among many other top officials of North Korea.
For North Korea, “The Development Project of 100,000 Housing Units in Pyongyang” has become a symbol of building a strong and prosperous nation.
1. Previous posts on the DPRK’s “2012 Kangsong Taeguk” policies can be found here.
UPDATE 4 (2011-7-23): Housing unit construction revised down?
Pictured above (Goole Earth): New housing construction in Rakrang-guyok
This week, many South Korean news outlets reported that the DPRK had significantly downsized that number. According to Yonhap:
North Korea has dramatically cut its goal of building 100,000 houses by next year, a government source said Monday, amid the North being economically squeezed by the international community for its nuclear and missile programs for years.
After the North started the project in Pyongyang in 2009, as part of its plans to achieve a strong and prosperous country by 2012, the North cut the number of planned houses by 75 percent to 25,000. The year 2012 marks the centennial of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the country’s late founder.
The North, however, is continuing to repair a towering bronze statue of Kim and renovate around the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where his embalmed body lies, the source said on condition of anonymity, citing policy.
Kim is the father of current leader, Kim Jong-il. The Kims are the subject of a massive personality cult that pervades almost every aspect of North Korean society.
Still, the North has embarked on a project to demolish buildings and facilities in central Pyongyang to make room for high-rise apartments, a theater and a park for senior officials.
The North has begun interior work on one of its landmarks, the 105-story Ryukyong Hotel, which stood unfinished in downtown Pyongyang for nearly 20 years due to a lack of capital.
In 2008, the North resumed construction of the skyscraper, but it appears unlikely for the project to be completed next year. It is believed, however, that the North will finish some floors for use.
The last time that KCTV mentioned the 100,000 housing unit goal was on May 26, 2011…nearly a month ago. I will keep up to see if it is ever mentioned again. I would not hold my breath waiting for a lower number to be announced, however.
Using satellite imagery of Pyongyang, I can see appx 200 residential buildings under construction. They are mostly concentrated in Hyongjesan-guyok. On average, each of these buildings would have to contain 500 housing units to reach 100,000. This is not possible given the dimensions of the buildings we can see. Additionally, most of these facilities are a long way from being completed. With a goal of 25,000, that would mean new buildings on average would only need to contain 125 units…a much more reasonable number.
In terms of residential construction, the government now seems to be focusing its efforts primarily on completing the second phase of the Mansudae Street renovations in time for Kim Il-sung’s 100th birthday. See here and here.
The prestigious units (visited by Kim Jong-il) that have been completed are all in Pyongyang’s Central District: Near the Potong Gate (Google Maps), Near Haebang Hill (Google Maps), and behind the Central Market (Google Maps). I should point out, however, that these are not the only buildings to be completed. Other less-prestigious buildings have been completed and occupied. Also, many villages (ri, 리) outside the capital are being upgraded and provided new facilities. I am not sure what the procedure is for deciding which villages receive new homes, but it can’t be random. Being located next to a major highway seems to be an important variable (keeping up appearances). I am also unsure what the DPRK does with all of the displaced residents. Are they going somewhere else to live with their families? Are they living in temporary shelters?
UPDATE 3 (2011 -7-5): Several days ago, Yonhap reported that the DPRK had quietly reduced its goal of building 100,000 housing units by 2012. So of the 200+ buildings that are currently under construction, which projects are priorities? Mansudae Part II for sure (see here and here). But what else? There are many construction sites that were launched well before the second renovation of the Mansudae area was begun, and the deadline for completion is rapidly approaching.
Well North Korea recently broadcast a propaganda television show touting Pyongyang’s housing construction (along with quite a lot of singing). I was able to match up this North Korean television footage with satellite imagery of Pyongyang construction sites to help answer this question. Given the amount of propaganda being used to promote these particular developments, I would say the following three are also 2012 priorities:
Ryongsong-guyok, Chonggye-dong (룡성구역, 청계동)
Click on images for larger versions. See in Google Maps here.
Hyongjesan-guyok, Sopho-2 Dong (형제산구역, 서포2동)
Click on images for larger versions. See in Google Maps here.
Rakrang-guyok, Tongsan-dong (락랑구역, 동산동)
Click on images for larger versions. See in Google Maps here.
The DPRK also recently hosted an architecture expo in Pyongyang. I have uploaded a video of the event to YouTube, and you can watch it here. I was able to match up some of the projects (though not all) with current satellite imagery. Aside from the renovation of the Ryugyong Hotel, there is no publicly available satellite imagery showing that these projects have been launched.
Hyoksin Area (혁신)
Ryugyong Area (류경)
1. So Marcus Noland was right. They want tall buildings.
UPDATE 2(2010-7-28): According to the Daily NK the construction has come to a halt:
The construction of 100,000 homes in Pyongyang has been put on hold due to a lack of cement. According to a Daily NK source, the project is around 40 percent complete.
The year’s aim is to finish 35,000 households out of the total 100,000 planned for construction. Work is due for completion by 2012.
The North Korean authorities had planned to construct 20,000 houses along the railroad from the Ryongseong-district via Seopo in the Hyeongjesan-district to the Ryeokpo-district and 25,000 houses in the center of the city. The schedule for laying the foundations has been set for September this year with plastering and interior works running until the end of the year.
The frame work of the houses, expected to finish by September, have been suspended due to lack of cement and other materials. A source commented that, “It was planned that general construction of frame works would finish in September but exterior construction has been halted due to a lack of materials.”
The North’s authorities have attempted to supply materials through the Sangwon Cement Complex, the Chollima Steel Mill Complex and other factories across the country. Annual production of cement in North Korea amounts to 6.4 million tons, approximately 12 percent of South Korea’s. However this is not enough to fuel general construction of key facilities such as social infrastructure and military facilities.
Large scale power plant constructions such as the Heecheon Power Plant combined with the building of 100,000 houses in Pyongyang have meant the shortage of cement is particularly acute.
Last year the North established the Pyongkeon Development Investment Group, attracting 320 million dollars of foreign capital. According to the plan submitted by the Group, 300,000 tons of cement are needed for foundation work in March alone.
Chosun Shinbo, the publication of the Chongryon (General Association of North Korean Residents in Japan), reported the construction of 35,000 houses was started in September last year. Since then, old houses in the districts have been torn down and neighborhoods rezoned. In March, the foundations of the houses were laid and the exterior frame work was built but construction has made little progress throughout June due to low cement levels.
The 100,000 household construction project in Pyongyang has been led by Jang Sung Taek, Director of the Ministry of Administration of the Workers’ Party, later appointed as the Vice-chairman of the National Defense Commission earlier this year at the Supreme People’s Assembly.
A source reported that, “Jang Sung Taek ordered foreign currency earning organizations to procure cement and that even selling coal should be considered.”
North Korea launched the state project to construct 100,000 houses in Pyongyang as a symbol of completion of the strong and prosperous state as part of a three-year campaign. Additionally, this project has been advertised as an achievement of the successor, Kim Jong Eun. If the plan fails then it will be a blow to the succession. If construction is suspended completely in advance of the Delegates’ Conference, happening in September, the image of Kim Jong Eun could be damaged.
UPDATE 1 (2010-5-2): Pyongyang’s 2012 renovations
Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times correspondent and author of the very interesting and enjoyable Nothing to Envy, was the first western journalist to write about Pyongyang’s construction boom and the DPRK’s goal of achieving a strong and prosperous nation by the time of Kim Il-sung’s 100th birthday in 2012. The article is a bit dated, but I thought it would be fun to go back and point out all of the construction projects she mentioned in Pyongyang (plus a few more).
Below are some blurbs from Demick’s article supplemented with satellite imagery:
Blurb 1: “Yet these days, high-rise apartments in shades of pink are taking shape near the Pueblo, the American spy ship captured in 1968 and still anchored in the river. A tangle of construction cranes juts into the skyline near Pothong Gate, a re-creation of the old city wall. About 100,000 units are to be built over the next four years.”
I have already blogged about the new housing near the Potong Gate (see here). Here is the housing near the Pueblo (click on images for larger versions):
The dates of the pictures are 4/6/2005, 11/12/2006, 1/28/2009). The original Los Angeles Times story had a picture of the completed building but that does not appear to have been archived. Kernbeisser got a photo of the building under construction.
Blurb 2: “But South Korean companies and individuals have mostly ignored the political chill. Among the biggest players here are a unit of the Hyundai conglomerate, which operates the resort where the shooting occurred, and companies affiliated with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, which also runs a car assembly plant in North Korea [Pyonghwa Motors]. The church last year completed work on what it calls the World Peace Center, behind the Potonggang Hotel, also owned by church affiliates.”
Blurb 3: A Chinese company, meanwhile, is renovating the No. 1 Department Store in the heart of downtown.
Blurb 4: The Taedonggang Hotel, where Soviet dignitaries stayed in the 1960s and which burned down in 2002, is being restored as a five-star hotel. The Pyongyang Grand Theater, which stages revolutionary operas, is under renovation. The oldest and most elegant of the city’s movie theaters, the Taedongmun Cinema, was restored over the summer and used for screenings at the Pyongyang International Film Festival, which opened here last week.
Here are satellite images of the Taedonggang Hotel reconstruction:
Of course these places only scratch the surface of construction work in the DPRK in the last few years. I started to make a list of construction and refurbishment projects, but it got very long very fast. Since I have other things to do on this lovely Sunday afternoon you will have to wait for me to get around to it at a later date.
ORIGINAL POST (2009-10-20): According to KCNA:
General Secretary Kim Jong Il went round newly-built apartment houses in Mansudae Street.
Saying that the newly-built apartment houses of new styles in the street are the most modern ones which fully reflect the plan and intention of the Party to provide the people with the best living conditions, he added that those apartment houses in the street serve as a model and standard for building dwelling houses to be used by all the people in a great prosperous and powerful nation.
He said that it is necessary to build in Pyongyang modern flats for 100,000 families, houses similar to those apartment houses standing in Mansudae Street, in a matter of a few years as an immediate task.
He expressed great expectation and conviction that all builders of the capital city would create new “Pyongyang Speed” in the era of Songun in the construction of the capital city and usher in “an era of prosperity of Pyongyang” in the new century just as the people created the world-startling “Pyongyang Speed” in the 1950s by building a flat for a family in just 14 minutes true to the Party’s policy of prefabricated construction after the war and as the people in the 1970s and the 1980s opened up “an era of prosperity of Pyongyang” by building many modern streets and great monumental edifices in a matter of 15 years and thus demonstrate once again to the whole world the revolutionary spirit of the service persons and people of the DPRK, successors to the great history and tradition.
The goal of constructing 100,000 flats has been repeated in KCNA since then: December 5, 2009, January 22, 2010, February 6, 2010, March 18, 2010. In KCNA they have been careful not to declare a specific deadline for completion, but (thanks to a reader) in the monthly magazine Korea they have set Kim Il-sung’s 100th birthday in 2012 as the date.
I have blogged about and mapped the construction on Mansudae Street. You can see the inside and outside of these buildings here.
So where will all these flats be located, and what does the construction look like? Below I have posted a GeoEye satellite image from Google Earth which highlights the residential construction areas (in yellow).
Click image for larger version
So it looks like the majority of the residential construction will be located in Hyongjiesan-kuyok (형제산 구역) in the north and Rakrang-kuyok (락랑 구역) in the south.
According to the June 7, 2010 DPRK evening news, it looks like soldiers are involved in the construction. No surprise there. It is unclear how many are involved. Based on the image below I will let the “professionsals” determine which brigades are involved in the work:
As with the post-explosion reconstruction of Ryongchon (see images here), the North Korean government is tearing down traditional, single-family houses and building “modern” high-rises in their place. At this point the status of the former residents is unclear. Have they been moved into temporary housing (assuming they will get new flats once they are completed) or have they been permanently relocated to make room for the 100,000 lucky families? (This method of residential development reminds me of Ceauşescu’s Romania.)
Click images for larger versions. Top: April, 10, 2009 Bottom: December 20, 2009
Looking at the urban geography of the area I get the feeling that Jane Jacobs would be very disappointed.
Click image for larger version (rotated 90 degrees – so “north” is on the right, “south” on the left)
It seems like the new residents of the northern part of Hyongjiesan will be de facto residents of Sopho even though the railway line makes them separately distinct neighborhoods. Sopho offers the closest train station and market. Residents at the southern end of the Hyongjiesan housing project will need to use a smaller market near the Sopyong Train Repair Factory (See satellite image here) and the West Pyongyang Railway Station. Although the railway line defines the eastern border of Hyongjiesan District as of today there are only two places where commuters may cross over the tracks—at the West Pyognyang and Sopho Railway Stations. The distance between these two railway crossings is 3 miles (4.82 kilometers).
As of now, it appears there is little industry and few schools this far out of the city, so it is probable that most of the residents will be commuting into town. However, none of the new housing is metro accessible. Sopho receives bus service and the West Pyongyang Station receives bus and tram service. However the bus from the West Pyongyang Station to the Sopho Station lies to the east of the new housing and is separated by three miles of railway. Adding more bus stops between the two stations and providing more railway crossings from the east side to the west side of the tracks would be very helpful in reducing the amount of walking residents would need to take. Somehow, I do not think that will happen.
As for the buses, with only one line to service 100,000 families look for them to be crowded. It is possible that a commuter rail-line could easily transport workers to the center of town (like in Hamhung), but that might be wishful thinking at this point.
And finally, although the 100,000 families that do end up living in these homes will theoretically enjoy newer, higher-quality housing, their movements in and out of the buildings can be more easily monitored by inminban (인민반) than those in the single-family homes. In the traditional single-family homes there are multiple avenues to enter and leave the neighborhood, but when everyone uses the same door to enter and leave, residents’ activities can be more easily monitored.
So why not build more high-rises in the center of town where people actually work? These kinds of planning snafus are reflected in most socialist cities and are (unfortunately) predictable. To learn more about the urban economics of planned cities, I recommend not just Jane Jacobs but also “The Urban Dimension of the North Korean Economy: A Speculative Analysis” by Bertrand Renaud. Read his full chapter here. Lots of good stuff from them.
Naenara offers news of a rare DPRK international public tender:
Invitation for International Public Tender
The Ministry of Land and Environment Protection of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea plans to build a new road between Pyongyang and Phyongsong in order to facilitate public transportation in the western region of the country, including Pyongyang.
To this end, the ministry is going to purchase equipment and materials necessary for the project through international public tender. It also intends to employ international consultation services for technical assistance.
The international consultancy services will include road design, building operations and technical supervision (land fill, sand and gravel bedding, cement stability, paving, bridge construction, construction of small structures and protective guard and installation of road signs) and use of equipment and machines for road construction.
The equipment and materials to be purchased are as follows:
Hydraulic excavator, cement truck, self-propelled road liner, measuring equipment, bus, bulldozer, fuel truck, concrete cutter, geological testing equipment, cement, grader, trailer, voltage regulator, examination equipment, round steel, loader, sprinkler, water pumping equipment, drilling equipment, angle iron, Macadam roller, crane truck, dredger, printer, steel pipe, Dandem roller, stone crushing plant, horizontal vehicle for bridge construction, plotter, iron sheet, composite roller, mobile compressor, guniting machine, laptops, timber, tired roller, hammer drill, welder, laser surveyor’s rod (LEICA TCA 2003), asphalt, concrete paver (with the framed rails), rock-driller, electric generator, digital theodolite (SOKKIA DT 610S), fuel, concrete mixing station, asphaltic emulsion truck, pressure pump, automatic leveling instrument (SOKKIA C32II), aluminum sheet, asphalt mixing station, automatic truck, vibratory pile hammer, fork-lifter, luminous paper, mixture truck, asphalt paver, pressure pump, light reflection sign, and car.
Letters of tender invitation will be issued early in July 2013.
For more details, please contact:
International Implementing Office for Road Construction Project
Add: Pothonggang-dong No.1, Pothonggang District, Pyongyang, DPR Korea
UPDATE 1 (2013-6-22): The Institute for Far Eastern Studies wrote about this tender:
North Korea to Acquire Road Equipment and Materials via International Auction
North Korea has revealed plans to acquire equipment and materials for new road construction through an international auction.
In the May 29 economic news section of ‘Naenara,’ a website run by North Korea, it was reported that a new road is being built between Pyongyang and Pyungsung, South Pyongan Province. It announced that “with regards to the construction, the Ministry of Land and Environment Protection will purchase the necessary equipment and material through an internationally competitive auction.”
Naenara speculates that the ministry will purchase hydraulic excavators, buses, cement, and transformers, among fifty other items, with the auction invitation to be issued this July. Naenara also announced that the construction and technological management of the roads will receive voluntary international consulting.
It is uncommon for North Korean media to publicize plans for receiving goods via an international auction. Whereas North Korea has usually made direct contact with foreign companies based in China, it has recently diversified its reception of foreign capital.
As the international society’s trust in North Korea is low, North Korea is pursuing changes in its methods of acquiring capital through avenues like international auctions. This can be interpreted as an intentional effort to show that North Korean liberalization and development policies are following international norms. Furthermore, in addition to adopting the law on economic development zones, North Korea is starting to focus more on developing a ‘special zone’, with construction of the ‘Sinuiju Special Zone’ scheduled to start soon.
At first, the ‘Sinuiju Special Zone’ was intended to develop by sections, receiving capital from not only Chinese companies but also Korean companies. However, due to faltering relations between the North and South, China has emerged as the sole partner of North Korea to co-develop the special zone.
Also, following the 12.1 Policy from last year, an umbrella organization will be set up to comprehensively manage the economic development zones pursued by the thirteen cities and provinces, and the two hundred twenty districts. While the North Korean Joint Venture Committee (Chaired by Lee Kwang-keun) was in charge of securing foreign investments for the development of the special zones, the new organization will manage not only all the specialized zones but also all the development zones.
Furthermore, there are plans to link Sinuiju, Pyongyang, and Kaesong via highway and high speed rail, an investment which is expected to cost 14.1 trillion KRW. The highway is expected to cost 4.7 trillion won and the high speed rail carries an anticipated price tag of 9.4 trillion won. In order to secure funding, North Korea plans to sell underground resources and secure sources of private investment. In terms of financing procurement methods, North Korea is considering BOT (build-own-transfer), BTL (build-transfer-lease), resources development rights as collateral, etc.
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
It has been confirmed that North Korea has passed a ‘City Beautification Law’ and that it is moving ahead in earnest with environmental beautification projects.
On May 9, 2013 the mouthpiece of North Korea’s cabinet, the Minju Chosun, introduced the city beautification legislation in its ‘Regulations Explained’ section. This is the first time city beautification has been mentioned in one of North Korea’s major publications. The Ministry of Unification claimed that “it has not yet been confirmed” whether this law has been enacted. The City Beatification Law was not included in the Complete Collection of North Korean Statutes which was published in October 2012. As such, one can infer that the City Beautification Law was enacted in the last few months.
According to Minju Chosun, the City Beautification Law is a five page document consisting of 42 clauses. The law’s purpose is “to contribute to providing a culturally sanitary living environment to the North Korean people by setting up strict institutions and establishing order in the following areas: the city cleaning industry, the beautification of buildings and facilities, and city planning.” The City Beautification Law sets regulations that provide for the participation of the North Korean people in the business of city beautification. It also establishes city beautification sectors for management by civic organizations, government agencies, and enterprises.
The legislation includes content which calls on North Koreans to strengthen cooperation and international exchanges in terms of city beautification. It also encourages scientific industry research for the sake of city beautification and the expansion of investment in the city beautification industry. Minju Chosun emphasized that city beautification is not something which can be taken on by only a few individual civic groups. Emphasizing that city beautification is a project which must be conducted on a national scale, the paper reported that, “it is a huge task which must be undertaken by all people across the country.”
Recent reports from major news centers in North Korea seem to confirm that North Korea is concentrating efforts in the city beautification business. In an April 3 article entitled “The Urban Planning Industry is a Noble Patriotic Industry,” Rodong Sinmun, the official paper of the Korean Workers’ Party, reported that “Continually, a great effort must be put into the innovation of the appearance of North Korea’s cities.” The paper suggested beautification techniques such as remodeling the facades of buildings, conserving fences, city planning, paving sidewalks with precast pavers, gardening and afforestation of areas around streams, and riverbank beautification.
On April 9, Pyongyang Broadcasting reported that Independence Road Park is being constructed in the Mangyongdae region as a relaxation area for workers and students. The park is projected to have facilities for volleyball, basketball, roller-skating, and mini-golf. At the end of last month, the Sweetbrier Center, a state of the art civic center, was opened on the bank of the Daedong River.
One is able to get a sense of North Korea’s plans for environmental beautification from Kim Jong Un’s recent statements and activities. While visiting the National Science Center Biological Building’s Turf Research Center, Kim emphasized the importance of cultivating grass: “Grass gives the ground a beautiful appearance by covering its exterior like silk. It plays an important role in protecting national land and in cultivating our living environment both culturally and in terms of sanitation.”
According to Kim’s statement, it can be assumed that the City Beautification Law’s enactment was driven by Kim Jong Un’s emphasis on building a “civilized socialist country.” The expansion of the task of city beatification from Pyongyang to other regions coincides with the slogan coined by the Kim regime: civilized socialist country. That the city beautification business is backed by legislation suggests it will not be a short term policy.
According to Radio Free Asia:
Private ownership of homes is illegal in North Korea, but residents of Pyongyang who make frequent trips to China and residents of cities on the border between the two countries told RFA it is no longer strange to hear about “sales” of government properties between individuals.
According to a virtual housing market for North Korean civilians, the country’s most expensive homes are located in Sinuiju, with Hyesan city in northern Yanggang province next in cost and Pyongyang in third.
A single family home or large apartment in what is deemed a good location in Sinuiju can fetch around U.S. $30,000, while those in the suburbs of Pyongyang and other border cities are priced less.
While houses are being built everyday in Pyongyang to supply a growing demand, it is difficult to find new homes in other cities, leading to a rise in the cost of real estate, the sources said.
A resident of Hyesan told RFA that homes in cities like his, near the border with China, command the highest prices on the black market because they provide access to Chinese money and infrastructure.
“I can’t say all houses in Hyesan are expensive, but those which are good for the smuggling trade and receive a clear Chinese cell phone signal are really high priced,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Several houses by the riverside are even priced similarly to Chinese houses on the opposite side of the border in [Jilin province’s] Changbai city,” he said.
Sources told RFA that the North Korean government has canceled licenses several times in recent years, issuing statements which describe the practice of housing transactions as an “offence against the system of the North Korea.”
But attempts to stamp out the trend have repeatedly failed as those involved in the sales include untouchable high-ranking officials and because the practice is too far reaching.
Read the full story here:
Illegal Trade in North Korean Homes Flourishes
Radio Free Asia
Pictured Above (2012-12-13): Tanchon Port
UPDATE 2 (2013-4-25): Yonhap reports on the DPRK’s plans for the Tanchon Port:
North Korea is scurrying to develop the resources-rich city of Tanchon on the east coast as part of the country’s efforts to make it a source of foreign currency income, recent news reports from the North showed.
Tanchon will become a key transit point in shipping goods to and from Russia’s Siberia, the northeastern part of China and Mongolia, said the Wednesday issue of the Choson Sinbo, a Korean language newspaper published by North Korean nationals in Japan.
The newspaper, a mouthpiece of North Korea, said the port city of Tanchon should become the source of finance for the country’s broader policy line of pursuing both economic development and nuclear capacities.
In a bid to boost exports, the country completed the construction of a port in May last year in the city with rich reserves of magnesite, zinc and other mineral resources, which sits about in the middle of the country’s east coast line. the Choson Sinbo said the city has about 5.4 billion tons of magnesite deposit, possibly the third biggest reserve in the world.
The news outlet also highlighted the country’s planned ways to increase earnings in the resources-rich city from which the country used to export mineral resources to China for meager profits.
“North Korea will move to manufacture processed magnesite goods in order to make high-value added goods,” the Choson Sinbo noted. “To that end, many plants will be built in the Tanchon region and the areas will become a new industrial zone.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has also underlined the country’s plan to boost profits from the Tanchon development, saying in a national meeting of light industrial workers last month that profits from Tanchon development should be exclusively used to prop up the livelihood of North Korean people.
UPDATE 1 (2012-5-3): KCNA announces the completion of the Tanchon Port:
A modern trading port made its appearance in the area of Tanchon in South Hamgyong Province on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of President Kim Il Sung’s birth.
The construction of the port with a cargo traffic capacity of millions of tons provides a guarantee for greatly contributing to developing the nation’s foreign trade and improving the people’s living standard.
A ceremony for the completion of the construction was held on the spot Thursday.
Present there were Choe Yong Rim, Kwak Pom Gi, Ro Tu Chol and other officials concerned, officials of the Ministry of Land and Marine Transport, builders and working people of industrial establishments in Tanchon City.
Read out there was a joint congratulatory message sent by the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the Cabinet of the DPRK to the officials and members of shock brigades who performed labor feats in the construction of the port.
The message highly praised them for successfully building another giant structure in the era of Songun greatly conducive to building an economic power true to the life-time desires and last instructions of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il.
It expressed belief that they would perform greater feats in the efforts for the country’s prosperity united close around the WPK Central Committee headed by the dear respected Kim Jong Un.
Minister of Land and Marine Transport Kang Jong Gwan, in his speech made for the occasion, said the construction of the port was a brilliant fruition of the wise leadership of Kim Jong Il who initiated the construction of the port and worked heart and soul to translate the desire of the President into a reality till the last moments of his revolutionary life and the clear-sighted guidance and meticulous care of Kim Jong Un.
Speakers at the ceremony pledged themselves to carry out their tasks including dredging in a short span of time in the same spirit as displayed in the construction of the port.
At the end of the ceremony the participants looked round different places of the port.
Just a few days ago, the Choson Sinbo reported the following (via Yonhap):
The North is estimated to have 15 billion tons of anthracite coal, a key mineral Pyongyang uses to produce steel, the Choson Sinbo newspaper said.
The North also has an estimated 5.4 billion tons of magnesite in Tanchon, a home to mines in South Hamgyong province, and other areas, according to the newspaper.
North Korea is set to open Tanchon as a modern trade port, the newspaper said, without giving any specific time frame for the opening.
ORIGINAL POST (2010-12-9): On December 2, KCNA announced that Kim Jong-il visited the port in Tanchon County, South Hamgyong County (40.412522°, 128.917731°) where he gave guidance on the port’s reconstruction.
Judging by the satellite imagery of the area on Google Earth, it appears that the project had already begun by May 13, 2009, where we can see concrete blocks ready to be used to extend the jettys (breakwaters). I have outlined the proposed port project on Google Earth imagery below and provided a picture of the completed project from KCTV:
After the jettys are extended, the major construction work and dredging can begin. Below are images of the port’s main construction site as it appears on Google Earth and a prediction of the project’s conclusion from KCNA:
It appears from the picture that the port will be connected to the railway system—likely via the nearby Tanchon Smeltery and Magnesia Plant (both recently renovated) whose products will probably be exported from the port.
Tanchon is also home to the DPRK’s Komdok and Taehung Youth Hero Mines (among others). As is well known to readers, raw materials exports are the DPRK’s most significant (legal and transparent) source of hard currency. According to Yonhap’s North Korea Handbook 2002:
Geomdeok [Komdok] Mine is a special company in Bonsan-dong, Dancheon, South Hamgyeon Province, and is very famous for about 300 million tons of deposited leads and zincs. This mine annually produces 52,000 tons of lead, 124,000 tons of zinc, both of which account for 47% of total production in North Korea, and more than twice as much as the production of Eunpa Mine, North Korea’s second largest mine, in Eunpa-gun North Hwanghae Province. Concentrates of lead and zinc produced from Geomdeok Mine are processed into electric zinc at Dancheon refinery. Opened in 1932, this mine produces 14,200 tons of raw ore annually with three ore dressing plants. Annual production capacity can reach up to 11 million tons. The first dressing plant was completed in July 1953, near the end of the Korean War. It now processes a million tons of ore a year. The second dressing plant was opened with a production capacity of 3,200 tons of ore. The third one constructed in September 1983 can process 10 million tons of ore.